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Fresh questions emerged this weekend over a flow of deals prior to the collapse of PowerPlan, the failed warranty firm linked to PowerHouse, the UK's biggest independent retailer.

Accountants studying the collapse are investigating a paper trail centring on deals which effectively removed £9.5 million from the warranty business and left customers who bought electrical goods from the former ScottishPower stores uncovered. PowerPlan went into administration on September 5, the latest casualty of the collapse of PowerHouse, which was later rescued by Pacific Retail Group, the New Zealand electrical giant.

However the questions emerging this weekend focus on a series of transactions in early August this year relating to PowerPlan.

Attention is concentrated on Powerhouse Insurance Ltd (PIL), an Isle of Man-based company all the equity of which was bought from ScottishPower.

PIL underwrote insurance policies taken out by retail customers between 1998 and the acquisition of PowerHouse in 2001.

Another company, Powerhouse Insurance (Guernsey) Ltd, underwrote service agreements under the Extracare brand again sold between 1998 and 2001 when the retail business was bought over.

But the questions surround deals in August of this year in which PIL and PIGL were sold to a company called White Summit Holdings Ltd.

The issue is over the extent of White Summit's links to the PowerPlan business empire.

PowerPlan's directors include Jon Borril and Neil Bryden.

It is understood that Bryden, who is based in the Isle of Man, is the sole shareholder in White Summit. The PIL and PIGL businesses were subsequently bought back at a loss and, as a consequence, warranties of thousands of customers have been left without cover.

It is understood that the buy and sell transactions both took place in August within a fortnight of each other.

The revelations follow heated claim and counter claim in recent weeks from both Powerplan and ScottishPower.

A spokesman for PowerPlan claimed that the sum set aside to pay refunds on these policies was "woefully inadequate".

The Powerplan spokesman added: "When these policies were set up the insurers under estimated by a very large margin how many people would demand refunds because they had not made a claim under the policy.

"At the time it was thought that most customers would simply forget.

"But the world has changed. With personal organisers and so forth, people have not forgotten the original promise as was expected."

But ScottishPower last week strongly denied that the scheme was under-funded.

A spokesman said: "At the time of the sale of ScottishPower's retail business to Power-House, there was access to more than adequate funds to cover the level of expected claims."

PowerPlan had originally been established in 1998 as a "special purpose company" designed for customers of the chain of electrical shops.

Attempts this weekend to contact Neil Bryden were unsuccessful.

>From The Sunday Herald

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